Story of Native American persecution told in Marlborough
343 years ago on Aug. 30, the Massachusetts Bay Colony issued an order that resulted in the incarceration of Native-Americans. Some want to make sure that blot on Massachusetts history is never forgotten.
MARLBOROUGH – It’s a story of persecution of Native Americans, including some who lived in Marlborough.
Standing in front of City Hall on Thursday, Jean-Luc Pierite delivered history that dates back 343 years.
Pierite, president of the Board of Directors of the North American Indian Center in Boston, read an Order of Removal by the Massachusetts Bay Colony that dates back to Aug. 30, 1675. It required confinement or resettlement of all Native-Americans in the colony, including those loyal to colonists. It happened during King Philip’s War, the last major effort by Native Americans in Southern New England to drive out English settlers.
Thursday was the 343th anniversary of the order.
Pierite, a member of the Tunica-Biloxi Indian Tribe in Louisiana, called the order a “start of the concentration camp system here in the United States,” and a precursor to the Japanese-American internment camps in World War II.
The 1675 order resulted in the resettlement of Native Americans to islands in Boston Harbor, where many died. Some imprisoned were refugees in Marlborough, according to Gary McCann, a policy consultant for the Muhheconneuk Intertribal Committee on Deer Island.
Organizers of Thursday’s reading, which included stops in Littleton and Boston, want reconciliation and recognition of Native-American internment during King’s Philip’s War. That includes settling several issues: land rights, burial ground protection, and official recognition of internment in the Mass Bay Colony. They’ve met with state lawmakers to negotiate their goals.
Official recognition of Native-American internment is long overdue, McCann said, especially in light of this year’s U.S. Supreme Court decision that overturned a decision that upheld the constitutionality of Japanese-American internment.
Another goal of organizers is to incorporate Native-American internment into public education statewide, in order for students to know it happened. Discussions have occurred with the State Board of Education, according to Pierite.
Internment in Marlborough started with the Chaubunagungamaug Nipmuc Tribe that lived in what is today Dudley and Webster, according to McCann. After the start of King Philip’s War, some moved to Okkomakamesit, the Indian name for Marlborough.
“They were refugees,” McCann said, and were later interred on five islands in Boston Harbor after the Order of Removal was issued.
Pierite wore Native-American beaded necklaces, and a “rattle” secured in his belt loop that he uses for prayers and offerings, as he read the order. McCann was the only person in attendance.
“It bears no difference,” Pierite said. “There are none here to listen, but this (reading) recognizes this space, history, and the (Native-American) people that would be here.”
The Order of Removal was publicly acknowledged and commemorated in Boston in 1996. That 22-year anniversary was another reason for Thursday’s reading.
The next step, Pierite said, is to contact more local and tribal governments to increase awareness about internment on the Boston Harbor Islands.
“My goal is to honor the people that came before me,” Pierite said.